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Ellis Island (USA) - 1983 Ellis Island [EP]


ARTIST: Ellis Island (USA)
ALBUM: Ellis Island (EP)
LABEL: DAX Productions
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 2006, Time Warp Records


LINEUP: Robert A Ellis - vocals, guitars, keyboards * Ricky Risti - lead guitars, vocals * Louie Spats - bass, vocals * Michael Ray Rota - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Baby Blue * 02 Battle Zone * 03 Hold On * 04 I Gotta Get Away

Over the years there has been many great EP's that gave a tantalizing glimpse of future greatness only for the group to disappear without trace. I'm sure you can think of a few, for instance Avalon, Runner (USA) and until recently Dreamer, thanks to the re-issue by AOR-FM. Well I would like to add Ellis Island to the list, of course if you haven't already. This was released in 1983 on D.A.X Productions and seems to fetch a high price, in fact one copy recently sold for over $130 (sounds more exciting than 79.45 don't you think?). I would like to impress you all by having this in my collection, but alas like so many of these high price rarities you won't find it in the wilds of Northamptonshire. In fact I picked this up on CD, through Time Warp Records, that released (official? I'll let you be the judge of that!) a version in 2006. Not much is known about the band, only that some members can be found in cover bands, what would be interesting is if Robert Ellis has a stack full of unreleased songs under his bed, that are still waiting to be heard. If they were as half as good as these four songs, then it would be great for them to receive a full release. But one word of warning, this is not 100% pomp heaven as the tracks do display a selection of styles, maybe the group were still finding their feet and the direction they were to pursue had not been set in stone.

The Songs
We begin with 'Baby Blue' which is head and shoulders the best track on offer; this is classic AOR, pomp attack from all sides. Care has been taken in the arrangements that provide a flowing river of melody. Lots of lyrical statements here like, 'roll the dice',' pay the price' and 'I won't sacrifice for you'. The tune has the undeniable stamina to sustain heavy rotation.

Next up is 'Battle Zone' and here is the change, it kicks off with aspects of Thin Lizzy with the rumbling riffs of 'Killer On The Loose' being prevalent. The lyrical content is a noticeable change, using 'enemy ambush' 'battlefront' and 'GI Joe' which in all honesty is rarely found in AOR (aside from King Kobra on 'Iron Eagle', an exception to the rule) but more in common with the NWOBHM. The song also has more in touch with this genre as well, although a handful of keyboards are added and the mind wanders to the days of Balance, who always had a tendency to let rip, chiefly on their second album. I suppose it's quite a surprise from the opening number but nevertheless it has been done very well. One last thing do you remember the days of Celtic Frost, with their death grunts? well this track has a couple of pomp grunts!

With 'Hold On' it's back to driving keyboards and the pomp tendencies return together with a more progressive feel. The instrumental parts seem to have more concerted effect to succeed but unfortunately to the detriment of the vocals. It might be just the recording but the vocals don't seem as smooth as the opening track, but bear in mind this was probably recorded on a shoestring budget. However the actual mutli layered vocals in the chorus still make it a potential gem.

The final track is 'I Gotta Get Away' which has stacks of Hammond organ which of course leans it to Deep Purple. It's probably the least satisfying of the four, as it seems to lose the aor influences and more of a hard rock number.

In Summary
Well, two melodic classics, one hard rock number and a battle anthem show that this group had musical abilities in spades. Is it worth the high price? not a good question to ask this accountant, but I would love an original vinyl copy of this but I would also like a Ferrari. Therefore my chances of getting at least one of these items are getting smaller and smaller, but rest assured as are my feelings towards Ferrari owners I would also be insanely jealous of the few collectors who have this 26 year old bit of plastic in their collection.

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#1 | Eric on August 15 2009 13:56:06
I never heard this- thanks for the review/ tip Chris.
#2 | englandashes on August 15 2009 20:45:41
Eric, must admit I wasn't aware of it and took a punt on it by chance, I picked it during what I suppose you could say was 'blanket bidding' on aload of stuff, some you win and some you lose, in terms of money and also quality. This one being a win!
#3 | Michael Risti on September 26 2010 11:52:27
wow, I loved that band. My brother was lead guitar and I became friends with the rest. Remember going in the studio at 3 or 4 in the morning to get a better rate, lol. There was 4 talented musicians there, for sure. I still have my album with the jacket and also a test pressing, I wonder what the heck that thing is worth. harpy
#4 | dandel on December 03 2010 13:32:13
Mike Risti! How's it going? I used to run the rehearsal bldg in Quincy that they practiced in. You and me both at that studio early in the AM. I think I have two of the Ellis Island EPs; one is signed by the band. Had no idea these were collectible.

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